Yanks topple Jays; Bucs, Cubs closing in
There were plenty of postseason implications to keep tabs of on Tuesday as the forecast for October begins to snap into focus. The five teams that will make up the National League field are nearly decided as only the Nationals and Giants remain on the outside looking in, facing long odds.
In the American League, however, there's far more uncertainty. Four different AL teams remain within five games of the second Wild Card spot, and the first-place clubs in the AL East and West have leads of just 2 1/2 and two games, respectively.
Here's a look at how Tuesday's slate of games impacted the playoff picture:
Yankees even series in Toronto
The Yankees cut into the Blue Jays' AL East lead with a 6-4 extra-innings win on Tuesday. Greg Bird was the hero in this one as he knocked a three-run homer in the top of the 10th to give New York the win in front of a sell-out crowd at Rogers Centre.
The dramatic victory pulled the Yankees to within 2 1/2 games in the division with Wednesday's rubber match representing the final scheduled meeting between these clubs. Toronto's magic number to clinch the East remains at 10.
"Mathematically, you're still in it, but with the way they've played and with us not having a chance to play them, we would have dug ourselves a pretty deep hole," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
The Blue Jays still lead the season series 12-6 vs. New York. Those 12 wins are the most Toronto has ever had against the Yankees in a single season. New York is in control of the AL's top Wild Card spot, four games up on the Astros.
Pirates, Cubs closing in on playoff spots
The Pirates could soon join division rival St. Louis in the playoffs as they're just one win or a Giants loss away from clinching a playoff birth. Washington's loss to the Orioles on Tuesday put the Nationals out of reach of the top Wild Card spot, while the Bucs took care of their own business, beating the Rockies 6-3 at Coors Field.
A division title is still in play for the Pirates, too. They're four games behind the first-place Cardinals, and could gain significant ground next week when they host St. Louis for a three-game series.
Further down the NL Central standings, another team also inched closer to postseason play as the Cubs shut out the Brewers 4-0. Though Chicago will have to wait until at least Thursday to wrap up a spot in the one-game playoff. The win featured a pair of impressive feats as Jake Arrieta became the first 20-game winner in the Majors this season, and Kris Bryant broke the franchise's rookie record for most home runs in a single season with his 26th of the year.
"It just means that I'm putting my team in position to win ballgames," Arrieta said of his 20th victory. "At the end of the day, that's our goal, to try and pile on as many as we can, especially where we are at in the season. Wins now, at this time, are more important than ever. I'm just happy about getting one for the team and keeping the momentum going into tomorrow."
Angels stay alive in Wild Card chase
The Angels remain within striking distance of a postseason spot as they evened a three-game series with the Astros on Tuesday, winning 4-3 in Anaheim. Both Mike Trout and Albert Pujols went deep, with Trout's homer putting him at a milestone 40 for the first time in his career.
The win brought Los Angeles to within 2 1/2 games of the Astros for the second American League Wild Card and 4 1/2 games of the first-place Rangers in the AL West. The Angels wrap the season series with the Astros on Wednesday, and will later close out the regular season with a four-game series at Texas from Oct.1-4.
Another AL club in contention for the same Wild Card spot, Minnesota, came away with a win Tuesday, defeating the Indians 3-1. The Twins now trail the Astros by two games for a spot in the one-game playoff, but are on the verge of elimination in the AL Central. The Royals can clinch the Central as soon as Thursday with any combination of wins and Minnesota losses equalling three.
Other things to know
• Both the Orioles and the Indians face elimination numbers of one in their respective divisions. Cleveland is 4 1/2 games back of the second Wild Card spot, and Baltimore sits five games out.
• The Cardinals have to go at least 5-6 over the next two weeks to become the first 100-win team since the 2012 Phillies (102-60). They face the Reds (one game), Brewers (four), Pirates (three) and Braves (three) in that 11-game span.
If the postseason began today ...
Wild Card: Astros at Yankees
Division Series: Wild Card at Royals, Rangers at Blue Jays
Wild Card: Cubs at Pirates
Division Series: Wild Card at Cardinals, Mets at Dodgers
2015 POSTSEASON SCHEDULE
AL Wild Card Game: Oct. 6
NL Wild Card Game: Oct. 7
AL Division Series begin: Oct. 8
NL Division Series begin: Oct. 9
NL Championship Series begins: Oct. 16
AL Championship Series begins: Oct. 17
World Series begins: Oct. 27